CULIACAN, Mexico – A nephew of Damaso Lopez Nuñez, who is suspected of succeeding Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman as the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, died from a heart attack following his arrest by Mexican marines, Sinaloa state Attorney General Juan Jose Rios Estavillo told EFE.
“After being arrested by marine corps members in the city of Eldorado, (David Lopez) suffered a heart attack while being transported to be handed over to” prosecutors, Rios Estavillo said.
The 47-year-old Lopez, a suspected Sinaloa cartel member, was in possession of several weapons, the state AG said.
“Between 4 am and 5 am (Monday), marine corps members entered and took away” Lopez, a relative told EFE.
Marines launched an operation in San Diego, a village outside Culiacan, using several vehicles with air support from a helicopter, officials said.
David Lopez was in the inner circle of his uncle, who was arrested on Tuesday in Mexico City along with close associate Victor Giovanni Gonzalez without a shot being fired.
Damaso Lopez Nuñez, known as “El Licenciado” (The College Graduate), was detained in Anzures, an upscale neighborhood in the Mexican capital.
Lopez Nuñez was considered Guzman’s successor as leader of the powerful cartel following El Chapo’s capture in Los Mochis, a city in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, in January 2016.
Reports said Lopez Nuñez, who was Guzman’s right-hand man, was in the best position within the criminal organization to take the top spot.
Lopez Nuñez, however, got into a power struggle with El Chapo’s sons and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who shared the Sinaloa cartel’s leadership with Guzman, who was extradited to the US on Jan. 19.
The war for control of the cartel between Lopez Nuñez and Guzman’s sons, Jesus Alfredo and Ivan Archivaldo, has left at least 500 people dead this year.
The Sinaloa cartel, sometimes referred to by Mexican officials as the Pacific cartel, is the oldest drug cartel in Mexico.
The Sinaloa organization, according to intelligence agencies, is a transnational business empire that operates in the United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Americas and Asia.